JASON Manford acknowledges that for the next six weeks he’ll be playing second fiddle to a flying car — and he’s delighted at the prospect.

For the successful stand-up and West End star is appearing in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which opened at the Lowry on Tuesday night.

Jason plays Caractacus Potts the madcap inventor in the hit musical which is making its first appearance in the north west.

“It’s wonderful to be part of this show,” said Jason. “As Potts as I’m never off stage really but it’s just such a fun role to play.”

The musical is a version of the movie starring Dick van Dyke and it has a special place in many people’s hearts.

“What I really like is that the show works on different levels,” said Jason. “It works as a pure spectacle alone and it works because you remember the original. But then it’s also got this special thing as well.

“There is an extra nostalgia attached to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You remember who you were with when you saw the film for the first time, usually either your parents or grandparents and those memories are still very strong.

“That’s really clear when I reveal Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for first time. There’s often a round of applause and then when she flies for the first time there’s a huge cheer. I really like that, I like how much the audience buys into the show.”

Manchester-born Jason is particularly happy that the show will be at the Lowry over the Christmas period.

“That was one of the reasons I signed up for it,” he said. “I wanted make sure I was rooted at Christmas.”

He will also have a ‘lodger’ while the show is in Manchester - his co-star Phill Jupitus who plays Baron Bomburst.

“Phil’s living with me but that will be all right - he’s a good cook. He’s got to earn his keep,” laughed Jason.

For someone who hasn’t a traditional musical theatre background, Jason has made a name for himself in hit musicals. Before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang he starred in a version of The Producer and also appeared in Sweeney Todd.

So does having a background in stand-up help him?

“When I went for the chat with the director he was really interested in me being able to change the timing on things depending on the reaction of the audition,” he said. “That’s something which actors may not have, being able to adapt to situations.

“You’ve got the car, all these props, you have children - anything could happen. I hope that the rest of the cast feel they are in safe hands as nothing is really going to throw me.”

Given that Jason is part of a cast you might think he would find a being in a musical a little restrictive compared to a stand-up show.

“Actually I feel it makes you more creative in a way,” he said. “You have been given a certain set of boundaries but it’s then about what you do with the moments that can be played with. I find it more creative than going on stage and doing what you want for an hour.”

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been touring the UK all year and at the Lowry it will pass 300 performances. Jason will be notching up his 200th performance with the show having had a break earlier in the year.

“That’s a lot of shows to do,” he said, “but the audience are the variable, that’s what keeps it fresh.”

As a dad of four, Jason feels he has things in common with Caractacus Potts.

“Potts is a single dad who is a bit inept. He’s trying his best but things go wrong and I can feel that myself sometimes,” he said.

Jason believes that the appeal of the show is much more than its flying, four-wheeled star.

“It’s the story of a family who have lost their mother and have that void in their life filled by the magic of this car,” he said. “When I look out on to audience they are so spread out from grandparents to children and they all find something to connect with the show.”

After the Lowry, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will end its run in Bristol in February.

“It will be its 50th anniversary in 2018 so it would be lovely to do something with it then but who knows?” he said.

“Whenever I’ve been on tour I like to take two or three months off and spend time with the kids

“And I’ll probably do some stand up. I’ve not done a stand-up tour for two or three years.”

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Lowry, Salford Quays, until Sunday, January 15. Details from 0843 208 6000